Video: Clinton on the rebound

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updated 4/23/2008 2:26:23 PM ET 2008-04-23T18:26:23
ON THE TRAIL

So much has happened since the March 4 primaries: Bittergate and Bosnia-gate, bowling and Crown Royal shots, Osama bin Laden and the Weather Underground, untold hours of TV coverage and millions of dollars spent on voter persuasion. And guess what?

The race. Hasn't. Moved. One. Bit.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's 10-point Pennsylvania win was basically a carbon copy of her 10-point Ohio victory. This "Alice in Wonderland"-like primary continues with both candidates still trapped by their structural shortcomings.

Clinton's victory in Pennsylvania was thanks to the same groups of voters who have been with her all along: women, seniors, people without college degrees and workers making less than $50,000 a year. Late deciders -- those who said they picked a candidate in the last three days -- went overwhelmingly for Clinton, the same way they did in Ohio and Texas. Barack Obama, meanwhile, did best among voters with college degrees, independents (or, in Pennsylvania's case, those who switched their party registration to vote in the closed Democratic primary) and those living in the urban and inner-suburban parts of the state.

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The Obama campaign points out that the Illinois senator improved his performance among whites and seniors by 6 points and 12 points, respectively, in Pennsylvania compared to Ohio. But it's important to note that Democratic primary voters in Pennsylvania were also wealthier and better-educated than voters in Ohio . Just 38 percent of Ohio Democratic primary voters had a college degree, compared to 46 percent of Pennsylvania voters. In Ohio, 56 percent of voters said they made $50,000 or more a year. In Pennsylvania, it was 59 percent.

Video: Which Dem is better against McCain? Even so, Clinton basically held the same margins with voters lacking a degree and earning less than $50,000 a year. She carried non-college voters by a 16-point margin in Pennsylvania; she had an 18-point advantage in Ohio. Clinton carried those making less than $50,000 a year by 8 points on Tuesday -- a 6-point drop from her Ohio showing. She did no better or worse among college graduates or those making more money.

Yet we all know that Clinton is stuck. She netted just over 200,000 votes, leaving her 500,000 behind Obama in the popular vote total. And she's still 151 pledged delegates behind him. Perhaps more important, however, is the money gap. Quite simply, Obama's got tons of it and she doesn't. Even if she were able to re-energize her small donors today (and her campaign noted that she picked up $2.5 million overnight), it still wouldn't be enough to close the gap. What happens to her cash flow if she gets crushed in North Carolina or loses in Indiana? The more the media narrative focuses on her "no-win" situation, the harder it'll be for her to raise money. It's a vicious cycle.

But we also know that Clinton's not the only one with a structural problem. It seems that no matter what Obama does (or doesn't do), perceptions about him among many in the Democratic base have already hardened. We can't pin it all on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright or his poor bowling score. Instead, we find a good chunk of the Democratic base unwilling to forsake the candidate it knows best, warts and all (Clinton), for the one who promises a new direction (Obama). The only question now is whether those voters will be willing to give him another look if he's the nominee.

For superdelegates still waiting for the "safe" choice to emerge, don't hold your breath. Obama can't allay concerns about whether he can carry the Rust Belt against John McCainin November. And Clinton won't suddenly become less polarizing or more appealing to swing voters.

So it's back to money: Obama has it and Clinton doesn't. In the end, that's how this race is likely to end.

Copyright 2012 by National Journal Group Inc.

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